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It is always exciting to catch the nuts – a hand that can’t be beat. What is the best way to play such a hand? Remember, as we have said many times in the past, when playing poker your objective is not just to win as many hands as possible, but rather to gain chips – the more the merrier.

I was playing in a lively $4-$8 limit game at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif. By “lively,” I mean there were several loose-aggressive players who were inclined to bluff on many an occasion.

In a middle position, I looked down at Kh – Jh as my holecards. That’s a great starting hand. With a Hold’em Algorithhm score of 27 points, it readily meets the starting hand criteria of 24 points in a middle position. My holecards had great potential! Three opponents and I paid to see the flop: Qh – 9h – 2d.

That flop left me with good chance to catch a super-high hand, especially the King-high, second-nut flush. With two cards to come – the turn and the river, I had nine outs to get the big flush. Using the 4-2 Rule (9 x 4 = 36), I could expect to catch the flush more than a third of the time. Estimating the number of chips in the pot, the pot odds were much higher than 3-to-1. There were also three outs to catch another King for a big pair. With three opponents in the hand, I knew I definitely had a huge Positive Expectation.

On the turn, I was so pleased when the dealer put the Ace of hearts on the board – the best card I could hope for – giving me the nut flush. Wow! I was certain I had the very best hand. Now, my objective was to try to build the pot as big as possible.

After the Ace fell on the turn, the Big Blind (BB) came out betting. I figured him for a pair of Aces. If I raised, it was more likely the Cut-Off would fold, thereby limiting the size of the ultimate pot; and it was likely there would be betting, perhaps a raise, on the river, building the pot even bigger. So, I just called the BB’s $8 bet, as did the Cut-Off.

The river card was a blank – probably did not help either of my two remaining opponents. With no pairs on the board, a full-house was not possible. I had clear sailing.

The BB bet out again. Now, it made good sense to make my raise. The Cut-Off folded. I figured him for a drawing hand that failed to improve, so he would have folded even if I did not make the raise. I expected the BB to call my raise, but he surprised me by re-raising – a three-bet. I guessed he had more than a pair of Aces – perhaps two-pair (Aces-up) or even a set of Aces.

There was no way he could beat my nut flush. I knew I was going to raise the pot again, but I wanted to encourage him to raise again. (With only the two of us in the pot, there now was no limit on the number of raises allowed.) I looked at him with a questioning expression on my face. Then, I looked at my whole cards and scanned the board.

Hesitating, I raised again, slowly putting the chips into the pot. I was trying to suggest I was not too sure of the strength of my hand. Without hesitation, the BB called my last raise.

As I turned up my holecards and placed them next to the cards on the board, he scowled and muttered some words I dare not repeat, as he slammed his holecards, face-down, into the muck.

I had won a huge pot! That pot put me well ahead for the evening. I played a few more hands until the Big Blind reached me. At that point, I got up and checked out for the day. Another winning session!

Winning is great fun!

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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